Sunday, November 24, 2013


I recently heard someone refer to the need for “Selah time” – time to process what came before. I’ve thought often about “Sabbath time,” but Selah time was new to me.

Selah is one of those words that has been a challenge for Bible translators, partly because its context, often appearing as a word, alone, at the end of a text, doesn’t offer many clues.
relief, Israelite musicians, Ninevah @ 678 BC

Sometimes it’s translated as a musical pause, like a rest note – a moment of silence.

Sometimes it’s translated as “stop and listen,” or “pause and think of that.”

In ancient commentaries it’s sometimes translated as “always.”

Or “so be it.”

Or “weigh this.”

Or “lift up your hands.”

It’s a reminder (as if we need one) that it’s sometimes hard to know exactly what scripture said, or meant.

A reminder to walk humbly when referring to an ancient text.

But also, a reminder that when we pause, look back, measure where we are, there’s often a note of ambiguity. Yes – the past is past. But what burden does that place on us? What does it ask of us? How do we  “weigh this” in the light of “always”?

We are in a bit of a Selah time, here at the end of the liturgical year, in this time of shortened days, longer nights, making our Thanksgiving preparations.

Lots of reasons to give thanks.

Lots of reasons to think, pray, grieve.

On a personal note, I’m coming to the end of several seasons.

I’ve been working on a committee research project about foodand farming. After two phone conferences a week for the last four months – and many many hours spent in writing and revision – that project is finally done.

I’ve also been helping a new organization, “Friends of ExtonPark,” work its way through incorporation and application for 501(c)3 status. That goal was just accomplished as well.

And a group that’s been meeting to work through Dan Allender’s“To Be Told” held what may be its last meeting. While we met and talked and prayed, the moving van holding one member’s household goods headed for a distant state.

I’ve been thankful for opportunities to grow, serve, share.

And wondering where God will lead me next.

Looking forward to a little more free time.

Prayerful that I listen well in the new season just ahead. 

As a nation, we’re also in a Selah time. Or should be.

We’ve been reminded this past week of two compelling anniversaries: Lincoln’s Gettysburg address (November 19, 1863), and the assassination of John F. Kennedy (November 22, 1963).

The Gettysburg address was given in the aftermath of a colossal American tragedy: in just three days, 50,000 young American men lost their lives in combat against each other. The battle was a victory for the North, and a turning point in the war, but also a bloody, wasteful demonstration of what happens when peaceful means are discarded in favor of  cannons and guns.

Lincoln’s speech was a masterwork of both vision and precision, and a reminder that the great experiment of freedom and equality continues: government of the people, by the people, for the people is never fully guaranteed.

When I pause to weigh Lincoln’s words, to picture those quiet fields, not so far from my home, where the work of growing crops was interrupted by the violence of war, I find myself wondering how committed we still are to Lincoln’s vision of government of the people, by the people, for the people. Some states are working hard to extend voting hours so working men and women can make it to the polls, or to offer alternative voting options, so college students or the elderly can vote by mail rather than show up to a polling place. Pennsylvania, I’m sad to say, is pushing hard in the opposite direction: trying to impose new restrictions, looking for ways to dissuade new voters from participating in the grand experiment.

Pause and think of that.

That other anniversary – the appalling death of our youngest president – resonates strangely with our current political climate. Discussions of circumstances surrounding the event churn up partisan accusations, unresolved anger, unhelpful labels, inflammatory language.

Are we wiser now than a half century ago?

More willing to listen to ideas different than our own?

More gracious? More compassionate?

Pause and think.

And pray?

Globally, as well, we are in need of Selah time.

Typhoon Haiyan dwarfed Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, stirring questions about climate change and the economic and environmental factors that merge to push the globe toward ever deadlier storms. What does it mean to love my neighbor, when my neighbor lives in a plywood house on a narrow strip of sand? Or farms a fragile shelf of dirt on a deforested slope, one mud-slide away from disaster?

Typhoon Haiyan, Reuters, Erik De Castro, 2013
Or lives in a metal mobile home, in the path of the next tornado?

Pause and think.

And pray.

Life is rarely simple.

We can pretend it so – focus on the immediate task, tune in to the programs that tell us what we want to hear, hold tightly to easy answers and close our ears to the questions.

But life is a richer, more savory stew. Sometimes hard to swallow.

I notice that the most recent NIV translation has “lost” the word Selah. The text is simpler without it.

 So – the quote below is from a different version (NIRV).

God is our place of safety. He gives us strength.
    He is always there to help us in times of trouble.
The earth may fall apart.
    The mountains may fall into the middle of the sea.
    But we will not be afraid.
The waters of the sea may roar and foam.
    The mountains may shake when the waters rise.
    But we will not be afraid. Selah

God’s blessings are like a river. They fill the city of God with joy.
    That city is the holy place where the Most High God lives.
Because God is there, the city will not fall.
    God will help it at the beginning of the day.
Nations are in disorder. Kingdoms fall.
    God speaks, and the people of the earth melt in fear.
The Lord who rules over all is with us.
    The God of Jacob is like a fort to us. Selah

Come and see what the Lord has done.
    See the places he has destroyed on the earth.
He makes wars stop from one end of the earth to the other.
    He breaks every bow. He snaps every spear.
    He burns every shield with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be honored among the nations.
    I will be honored in the earth.”
The Lord who rules over all is with us.
    The God of Jacob is like a fort to us. Selah
       (Psalm 46)

Selah: Pause and think.

Weigh carefully.

Take time for a moment of silence.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Counting Red-headed Woodpeckers

I spent yesterday morning standing near the edge of a bog, counting red-headed woodpeckers.

Until a few weeks ago, I’d seen exactly one red-headed woodpecker in my life, and that was a fleeting glimpse, from a sidewalk near the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary.

photo by George Tallman, 2013
They’re endangered in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, victims of habitat loss and competition from invasive European starlings.

A month or so ago, George Tallman, longtime leader of the Thursday Exton Park bird walk, started talking about red-headed woodpeckers he was seeing at Crows Nest Preserve, a Natural Lands Trust property in the far north-west corner of our county.

Birding there, he thought he’d seen eight.

Then more: Twenty? Thirty? Thirty-five?

It’s rare, in the mid-Atlantic states, to see more than one red-headed woodpecker at a time.

An occasional lucky birder will see two. Maybe three.

There’s one spot near near Gettysburg National Park with a record of 19. Once. That seems to be the recent record for the state.

So George was asking friends to come help him document what he was seeing, and I agreed to meet him there one Friday morning.

The prearranged morning I woke to heavy rain and wind. No thunder or lightening – but not a nice morning for wandering in the woods.

I tried to call to cancel, but George was already on his way, back in the hills where cell phones don’t work, so I gathered my coffee, binoculars and rain gear, and headed off over the winding roads, skirting downed limbs and hoping I’d see at least one red-head or two.

By the time I pulled into the gravel parking lot, the rain had cleared, and blue jays were calling their warning from the tops of the tree line.

Down a mown path, out onto an aging boardwalk through a swampy lowland, and there, yes, a red-headed woodpecker, swooping from pin oak to dead snag, caching acorns for the winter. Back and forth it went, busy at its work.

And then another. A dark-headed immature. Gathering from a different tree. Depositing on a different snag.

Calls from more birds, back in the woods. We walked on, counting.

Through the edge of a field, to a break in the tree line.

“It’s like a door,” George said. He’d marked the entrance to his magic bird kingdom with a ribbon of orange construction tape, and in we went, feet sucking in the muck, to the birdiest bogland I’ve ever seen.

Red headed woodpeckers swooped low overhead; red-bellied woodpeckers called from trees above us. Downy and hairy woodpeckers, flickers, nuthatches. A brown creeper worked its way up a nearby tree trunk. Far above, the blue jays insisted on their right to everything in sight. Somewhere nearby, white-throated sparrows sang their sweet, clear song.

We counted, watching, listening. Two right there, two more over there. Eight different birds, maybe more.

Then walked on, deeper into the muck, to a small clearing marked with the same construction tape. More snags, more birds, swooping, calling, hard at work driving tiny acorns behind bits of bark, sometimes flying up to chase competitors away. Ten red-headed woodpeckers, at least, and a half-dozen red-bellied, plus the others: downies, hairies, nuthatches, blue jays.

photo by George Tallman, 2013
“So, I’m not crazy?”

“Not crazy. No.”

I could only marvel.

And keep counting. By the end of the morning I had counted thirty-two different birds, and was sure there were more.

Which brought us to yesterday.

Documenting unusual bird sightings is tricky business, especially bird counts far beyond expected numbers.

So George recruited a dozen area birders to come and count, in different parts of the preserve, at precisely the same times.

Which is how I found myself standing along the mucky edge of French Creek on a Saturday morning, counting birds.

We had written instructions, showing exactly where to stand, exactly when to count, exactly what to record. Every ten minutes, for exactly three minutes, we were to count how many birds we saw, note whether they were adult or immature, then listen to see if there were more we couldn’t see.

My partner and I spent our time with exactly three birds: one mature, with brilliant red head, one immature, with muddy brown head, one elusive adult in a range just beyond our sight lines, calling almost continuously, only rarely in view.

Later, we converged on St. Peter’s Bakery, in scenic St. Peter’s Village, for coffee, cider, sandwiches and soup, on a sunny deck overlooking the boulder field where French Creek gathers strength and spills its way toward the Schuykill River. We waited for George to finish his careful tally, shared stories of our recent birding exploits, watched two black vultures soaring overhead.

Basking in the sun, sipping my cider, I marveled at the rich mix of people George had drawn together: a high school senior, hoping to study environmental biology, conservation, something to do with birds. A middle school science teacher, recently appointed “bird compiler” for Delaware County, exclaiming he’d rather crunch bird numbers than sports scores any day. Our designated photographer, a cheerful executive who uses an amusing pseudonym so his business associates don’t find out that he cares far more about birds than the work he’s paid to do. Two with careers in localized bird surveys. Several with careers in environmental education. Several, like me, with little background in science, but a growing love for birds, and bogs.

Our total: 35 documented birds. We were all sure there were more, in parts of the preserve where no one
was stationed.

That number will be reported somewhere, and maybe mid-winter we’ll go back to count again. And again in the spring, when breeding season comes. And then in the summer, to see how many birds linger.

Sitting on my couch this morning, watching my own birds competing for the seeds in my feeder, I find myself thinking about bogs.

We’ve spent the last hundred years trying to level things. Draining swamps, leveling swales, filling fens, oblivious to all that’s lost and all that’s harmed in our fervent desire to make things smooth.

The master plan for Exton Park, the place where I met most of my bird friends, called for ball fields, tennis courts, parking lots, in swales and seeps that are wet for months of every year.
photo by Arthur Steinberger, 2013

Multiply that across time, across continents: those natural sponges no longer soak up water, slow floods, offer habitat to creatures dependent on wetland trees and half-rotted tree trunks.

There’s been progress on protection of wetlands and endangered habitat, but it seems that progress is always in danger of being undermined. My bird-count partner, Debbie Beer, board member of Friends of Heinz Refuge, reminded us over lunch that two bills under discussion in the Pennsylvania legislature would make it harder to protect species like the red-headed woodpecker or waterways like French Creek.

“Write your legislators!” she urged us. Yes, write your legislatures.

But beyond that – I find myself thinking about how the push toward standardization in every area has flattened our lives, devalued those who don’t fit the standard, pushed us all toward a smooth, convenient, superficial vision that denigrates the complexity, richness, and sometimes hard-to-discern necessity of things like bogs, muck, human frailty, weird vegetables, red-headed woodpeckers.

This world is a system, delicately balanced in ways that elude our attempts to squeeze all things into our master plan.

We can try to fill the low spots, shave off the high, fill in wetlands, mine mountain tops, ignore depression, worship sameness, but always at great risk to our ecosystem, and our own humanity.

And sometimes, health bubbles up again, in carefully stewarded places (like Crows Nest), or in unexpected settings, like the sunny deck of St. Peter’s Bakery.

Twice now, I’ve filled my pockets with pin oak acorns from the trails in Crows Nest Preserve, to drop in other wetland areas where invasive phragmites are strangling native habitat.

Will they grow? And if they do, will they form a habitat rich enough to invite more red-headed woodpeckers?

Will a call to my legislators turn the tide on the plan to hobble habitat protection?

What I’ve learned is this: my own health, emotional, physical, spiritual, depends on my investment in the health of the world around me. And that health is reflected in things like bogs, red-headed woodpeckers, and people willing to care for things not easily counted in GDPs, Consumer Price Indexes, or any human's master plan.
photo by Arthur Steinberger, 2013

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Stumbling in the Dark

An email from a friend spoke of the death by suicide of a deeply committed young woman at a Christian camp connected to her own. Our own much loved friend and mentor, Beth, died at about the same age, in similar circumstances. In the past few years we've had time to share about the ways our questions and grief were not fully acknowledged, and the burden of processing that loss on our own.

Santa Ana muerta con quatro figures,
Manuel Rodriguez Lozano, Mexico, 1933
My friend’s email invited involvement in an attempt to share our own journey with those confronted with this more recent death: What would we say to our twenty-something selves? How did we deal with the doubt and the sorrow? What have we learned since, and how has God been faithful?

Just minutes before opening that email, I had come across an interesting Bible Gateway blog post referencing the suicide of Pastor Rick Warren’s son, and the call for churches to acknowledge and respond to depression and mental illness.  

This is no mere academic interest for me: depression runs deep in my family of origin, and I have loved ones who wrestle, almost daily, with the desire to see the pain of this life come to a sudden end.

I don’t go willingly into that dark place, yet, as the evening closes in earlier, and the holidays approach, I pause to wonder: what would I say to my twenty-something self, the day I heard Beth had chosen to leave us?

Or to my seventeen-year-old self, sitting on the edge of Lake Gleneida, just up the road from the cramped apartment I shared with my grandmother, picturing the deep, dark comfort of black water closing in?

Or my early-thirty-something self, moving through each day in a suffocating cloud, hardly able to breathe beneath the weight of sadness?

In my early forties I wrote a song I still sing to myself occasionally: 
Lord, I have no vision left,
I am bereft
Of hope or joy.
My steps are slow
I do not know
Where I should go
Oh Lord
Carry me through the day.
Looking back I’m struck at the utter loneliness of those dark times, even when loved ones surrounded me.
Why didn’t I tell someone?

I remember as a teen singing songs that reflected my internal sadness and being told, emphatically: “Christians don’t sing in a minor key.”  

Hardly encouragement to share my own inner sorrow, the dark night of my own ongoing struggles.

As Christians, we like to think the answers are available.

God is love.

His plan is good.

Prayer changes things.

Yet, true as I believe those statements are, the world is rarely as simple, or as flat. As humans we are multi-layered beings, carriers of ancient wrong and forgotten blessing, recipients of both gentle grace and casual, thoughtless judgment. Our souls are scarred by harsh words spoken in anger, by misguided instruction that skews our understanding of God’s mercy, by a complex calculus of waste and wonder, by voices that echo, sometimes far too loudly, naming us worthless, unloved, hopeless.

We are a mysterious stew of reason, emotion, spirit, synapses, ganglia. Recent research shows that mistreated children carry evidence in the brain itself, in physical, observable changes in the hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, changes that give rise to anxiety, panic, depression, hallucination.

As God’s people, we are not released from the pain of the world, or of our own history, but called to walk within it, to grow in compassion and wisdom, to carry each other’s burdens, to long for God’s healing and shalom to be revealed.

Even when that healing seems very far off.

Even when shalom seems nowhere to be found.

What I would say to my twenty-something self is that God’s mercy is greater than all our misery.

I was stunned to find, just recently, that some friends grieving Beth’s death years ago believed that suicide was the unforgiveable sin. Who could teach such a thing?

Apparently Augustine, alarmed at the ease with which some fellow Christians embraced unnecessary martyrdom, and in opposition to the Stoic philosophy of self-determination. 

A millennium later, Aquinas affirmed Augustine’s conclusion, that suicide is the sin of which one cannot repent.

That understanding shaped theology. Until 1983, the Catholic Church denied victims of suicide funeral rites within the church, or burial in church cemeteries.

As more has been learned about depression, mental illness, and the inner workings of the human brain, church doctrine and public opinion have shifted. The Catholic catechism continues to affirm the value of life, but acknowledges:
Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. 
Figura Afligida, Eduardo Kingman,
 Ecuador, 1963
Honestly, though, from what I know of suicide, repentance is not the issue. Repentance – as in turning away, grieving the status quo, longing for wholeness, crying out for forgiveness – repentance saturates the soul contemplating suicide. Surely God can understand the cry of a soul in so much pain.

To my grieving, struggling, younger self, I would say: there is much I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why we sometimes pray for light, and continue on in darkness.

I don’t understand why some people seem to breeze lightly through life, while others stumble under insurmountable loads.

I don’t understand the silence that sometimes surrounds us, when we call out for help, and feel our cries aren’t answered.

I do know we aren’t the first to wonder.

The pages of my Bible are worn at Psalm 102: 
Hear my prayer, Lord; 
let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me 
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me; 
when I call, answer me quickly.
For my days vanish like smoke; 
my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
 I forget to eat my food.
In my distress I groan aloud 
and am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; 
I have become like a bird alone on a roof. . . .
My days are like the evening shadow;
 I wither away like grass.
There are things I don’t know.

But there are also things I know.

I know that the more mercy I extend to others, the more mercy I receive.

I know that investing in the health and care of others in pain has brought me more joy than I once thought possible.

I know that life is a journey, and the road to great happiness often leads through great sorrow.

Last Sunday, I started the week in church, holding my sleeping baby grandson, his nine-year old brother leaning on my arm, my husband beside me. My daughter and son-in-law (mother and father to the two little boys) were leading the congregation in worship, and my granddaughter, the little boys’ sister, was dancing somewhere near the front of the church between her other very loving grandparents. We closed with one of my favorite songs:
“Blessed Be Your name, when I'm found in the desert place,
Though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed Be Your name.”
I’ve sung that song with tears running down my face, in turbulent distress, and in surprising joy.
“Blessed be your name, on the road marked with suffering,
Though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be your name.”
Since Sunday, we’ve learned of the very sudden death of a long-time friend and colleague, attended his moving, faith-filled funeral in upstate New York, five hours away, visited a loved one in a psychiatric hospital, traveled some familiar roads, revisited old sorrows.

I know this too:
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
  even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
  even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you. 
Le Bon Pasteur  (The Good Shepherd)
 James Tissot, France, ca1890
When I picture my friend Beth, or Rose, or the others I could list who have lost their footing to despair, I picture the Good Shepherd – more loving than me, more forgiving than me, more tireless than me – calling them gently, gathering them in his arms, singing his song of mercy and love, carrying them toward light.

I know – without doubt – he came to give them life abundant.

Life beyond this place of sorrow.

Life brighter than I can imagine.

Life no one can take away. 

This post is part of the November Synchroblog: Faith Stories. Here are the links foro other faith story posts:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Stubborn Ounces of Political Weight

This Tuesday is a mid-term election. In my own sleepy suburb, there’s been little word of what might be at stake. No signs in front yards, very few glossy fliers sitting in my mailbox.

Last year I spent four months exploring “What’s YourPlatform,” sifting through political issues, wondering how the command to love my neighbor would find it’s way into my position on everything from guns and prison policy to abortion, defense spending, welfare reform.

Some of those issues appear to be in play in states electing governors, replacing representatives or senators. Here in Uwchlan Township, our ballot will offer options for judges, coroner, tax collector, and one school board position. For five positons on my local ballot, there’s no choice at all.

Does it matter? Should I bother? How do I even decide who to vote for?

I know one option is to vote the party line. Here in Pennsylvania, the parties keep tight control. It’s almost impossible for an independent to make it onto the ballot; in fact, Pennsylvania may have the worst ballot access laws in the country:  

“Under current law, Democratic and Republican candidates are required to collect between 1,000 and 2,000 signatures to get their names on the statewide ballot, while all others must collect as many as 67,000 signatures in recent years.” 

I’ll support any candidate who supports the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition, a group dedicated to promoting legislation that would offer more access to the ballot, and more choice for voters. But rest assured: none of the minor candidates put forward by our political parties will be endorsing that in this election. 

Another option – the majority option? – is simply not to vote. We can already guess the results: in our very gerrymandered district, the Republican candidates will win. So why bother?

The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania (of which I’m a proud board member) helps maintain a website, Smart Voter, that helps voters locate polling places, find sample ballots, and learn at least a little abut candidates and their positions. In some races there’s not much information to go on, but it’s a start. In states that don’t offer Smart Voter, Vote 411 is also maintained by the League of Women Voters, with similar options for finding polling places and sample ballots.

Amid thoughts of elections, I’m also thinking of another arena of political influence in need of citizen attention.

The new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA – often pronounced Fizma) has prompted a series of complicated rules for farmers and food producers. The FDA comment period ends on November 15, and sustainable farm coalitions are asking consumers and farmers to take time to understand what’s at stake, and offer comment.

Too complicated, too hard, too much information. Why bother?

Yet, when I read about the proposed rules, and their impact on small farmers, I feel compelled to do what I can to comment, and invite others to comment as well.

I buy produce from a CSA which will have a far harder time keeping afloat if the proposed rules go into effect.

I buy eggs from two local farms which will see much less profit if the rules take place.

I have friends struggling to keep their farms and families afloat; the proposed FSMA rules will push them further into the red.

Yes, and I have friends who read my blog and say “Carol, you think too much.”

Or, “That’s all very interesting, but what should I do?”

Here’s a quick to-do list for the week ahead:

1. Visit Smart Voter or Vote 411, read up on candidates, and go vote – not just the party line, but for candidates who take the process seriously, try to offer information to voters, and demonstrate some understanding of justice, compassion, wisdom, grace.

2. Visit the Fix FSMA pages of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund or the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, spend some time trying to understand the issues, and offer comment on the FDA comment site. You can comment as many times as you want. Comments don’t need to be long, but the more personal, the better. Here are a few samples of my own. Feel free to copy and adapt them yourself (the sites offer more, and more detailed, comment): 
“I buy as much food as I can from biodiversified farms which make use of animal manure rather than chemical fertilizer. I feel far safer eating food grown with the use of natural fertilizer, yet your FSMA rules put tighter controls on farms that use manure than on farms that use chemical fertilizer. This inequity should be addressed.”
 “I buy my produce from a CSA which delivers off farm and also offers the convenience of eggs from a neighboring organic farm. As written, your rules will make the practice of off-farm delivery, and sale of food from another farm, prohibitively expensive and will require far more record-keeping by both farms. This is a serious flaw in the proposed FSMA rules, and should be addressed.” 
“I feel far safer eating food grown by farmers I know, than food grown on large monoculture farms in distant locations, with unknown pesticide loads and extensive handling along the way. Yet your proposed rules put a disproportionate burden of record—keeping, analysis, and inspection, on small and mid-size farms attempting to use best conservation practices. Please review these rules in conversation with our national sustainable agriculture coalitions, and create new rules that will help, not hurt, our sustainable farmers.” 
A simpler, (but less effective) option: Sign the Farm Aid FSMA petition.

3. Use your influence – through Facebook, email, converation – to encourage others to do the same. Sometimes local elections are decided by a handful of votes; sometimes public policy is reshaped by number of comments. 

Democracy is strongest when citizens understand what’s at stake, and take time to use whatever influence is available. 

Even when it seems small. 

Even when it’s easier to say “why bother?”

(To One Who Doubts the Worth of
Doing Anything If You Can’t Do Everything)

You say the Little efforts that I make
will do no good: they never will prevail
to tip the hovering scale
where Justice hangs in balance.

I don’t think I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
in favor of my right to choose which side
shall feel the stubborn ounces 
of my weight. 
      (Bonaro Overstreet, 1978)